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Q&A with Pamela Druckerman - author of French Children Don't Throw Food. Post your questions - ANSWERS BACK

(110 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 17-Jan-13 12:27:07

If you've ever sat in a restaurant and wondered why french children are so well behaved and seem to eat whatever is put in front of them then you may considered whether the french way of parenting is the way forward. Pamela Druckerman's latest book French Children Don't Throw Food is described by Amy (Tiger Mother) Chua as "Smart, funny, provocative, and genuinely eye-opening"

Pamela Druckerman is an American journalist who found herself living in Paris, with an English husband and three young children. As she struggled with sleepless nights, toddler tantrums and other demands of being a new parent, she couldn't help but notice that the French families around her seemed so much calmer and less harried than her own. Their children played quietly, they weren't picky about what they ate and, when the time came, they went to bed without fuss, leaving their parents to enjoy some all important adult time.

So Pamela set out to discover what it is that French mothers do differently and - it seems - so much better. She not only observed her French friends and neighbours at first hand, but also interviewed scores of French mothers, teachers and child experts.

If you're interested to read more, enter our draw before the 9am on Monday 21 January to win one of 50 copies. Pamela Druckerman is joining us for a Q&A, so please post your questions or comments to Pamela on this thread before the 31st January and we'll post up her answers on 8th February.

Tee2072 Sat 26-Jan-13 16:20:22

I have not read the book. I have never been to France. My son doesn't throw food. Luck, not parenting, I think.

I am fascinated, though, that there are really only 2 questions directed at Pamela here.

As anyone on thread read the entire book?

nzwahine Sat 26-Jan-13 18:27:53

Living in France at the mo and see plenty of tantrum throwing by French Kids.
Call me old fashioned but doesn't it come down us as their parents to just teaching our kids basic table manners, respect our elders & be grateful for what we have. I know that growing up I never misbehaved at the dinner table. We were taught by example by our parents & I wonder why in one generation so many of us seem to have let these basic principles fall by the wayside. Are we too busy these days? Are we now so used to instant gratification, living on credit, mobile phones, internet, etc that we expect our kids to get the lessons in one go & give up when they don't? My kids are by no means perfect and they have & do fall down along the way & drive me to distraction sometimes but it can only be to my benefit & theirs if they grow up with basic manners & respect. That takes time - it's a lifetime of learning. Just something to mull over.

Tailtwister Sun 27-Jan-13 20:48:07

I haven't read the book, but I do think it's possible for fairly young children to sit and behave at the table. We regularly eat out and lots of people have commented on how well behaved the boys are. I love the compliments (who wouldn't!), but do point out it's just a snapshot of their behaviour and they are just children. All children tantrum and behave badly sometimes. It's part of the developmental process and I would be astounded if French children are any different.

IME good behaviour when eating out relies on several factors. Familiar restaurants, eating when they are actually hungry, not having unrealistic expectations on how long they will sit are just a few. I notice our 2 are much better behaved in when familiar surroundings.

Bonsoir Mon 28-Jan-13 09:00:28

Tee2072 - Yes, I have read the book (when it was first out), as did plenty of my Anglo-Saxon Parisian girlfriends. I have also recently read the preface to the French edition, written by Elisabeth Badinter. Now that was more illuminating (about the whole of Elisabeth Badinter's oeuvre) than Pamela Druckerman's book!

wordfactory Mon 28-Jan-13 09:13:50

I think the way French DC behave around food and eating en famille, is simply an extension of the way the French (generally) parent, in that adults return to adult orientated life asap and DC are expected to fit in with that.

This is an expectation across the board. Food and eating is just one part of it.

Branleuse Mon 28-Jan-13 09:24:34

i think french children are often less picky about food as theyre expected to join in with massive occasion mealtimes with no special kids food, but behaviour wise, theyre no different

Bonsoir Mon 28-Jan-13 09:45:07

No - it's the opposite. On big occasions, French DC are siphoned off to another room/table and have special food. They absolutely do not eat with the adults (that is the Anglo-Saxon way, which shocks French people deeply). But French DC are expected to behave well and are punished if they aren't.

galaxydad Mon 28-Jan-13 10:17:54

Not in my experience but I suppose it's what your idea of the big occasions are.
Every meal we have had in France with French people our kids and their kids have always been sat at the table to join in.

Bonsoir Mon 28-Jan-13 10:19:47

In Paris (which is where Ms Druckerman is writing about), children sit separately. Even very tiny children - when my DD was just 3 she went to her first Bat Mitzvah and was expected to sit at a table of 20 little girls she had never met for an entire evening, right across a huge room of people from her parents and brothers (who were on a table of boys).

ohnowhatnow Mon 28-Jan-13 10:25:57

I was just coming on to say, its probably because French children would get a slap for throwing food and similar behaviour.

HanneHolm Mon 28-Jan-13 10:26:43

the french HIT their kids instead IME.

job done

BORED of the french deification.

galaxydad Mon 28-Jan-13 10:29:56

Bonsoir, you may be right but then the word Parisean should be used instead of French when making generalistions.
Which incidently is why I find the concept of this book just a bit silly.

CoteDAzur Mon 28-Jan-13 10:43:58

We live in the South of France, where there is a large English expat community. French children and English children do behave differently in social occasions, notably at restaurants. My understanding is that the difference is in parents' expectations - French parents expect children to behave, whereas most English parents I see have a "Children will be children" attitude.

We expect our children to behave but don't ever smack or otherwise hurt them. It is possible to establish authority over DC and have kids who behave in public without hitting them.

chipmonkey Mon 28-Jan-13 10:53:25

Bonsoir, was your dd OK with that? Did she come over to you? Did you let her?

Bonsoir Mon 28-Jan-13 11:39:24

chipmonkey - no, my DD wasn't OK with that! Not at 3. By 6/7 she could manage it.

Here in Paris 3 year olds get dropped off for three hour birthday parties at homes they have never visited before to be entertained by entertainers who shout at them shock

chipmonkey Mon 28-Jan-13 11:54:27

I did wonder! My ds4 is 4 and going to school and I don't think he'd be OK with that!

Bonsoir Mon 28-Jan-13 13:33:37

IME French children have to learn to manage without their parents very early on, and to rely on other adults and/or an invariable social structure to which they are accustomed (conditioned) from birth. Therefore, at age 3, they can manage a birthday party with aplomb.

However, when they grow up they don't have that deep-rooted security of being able to manage on their own, relying on no-one and nothing that is not deeply familiar, that comes of being exposed to multiple situations with their parents and seeing how their parents manage those situations.

ppeatfruit Mon 28-Jan-13 14:20:18

This is a fascinating discussion; we live between France and England and I agree that slapping, fear of punishment and lack of understanding of child development features more generally in the upbringing of french children than ours (which is of course not to say that English parents are perfect!).

BUT the repression in the children seems to lead to very competitive driving (tailgating) in the majority of the french drivers (they kill themselves and others in their cars many times more than the English).

I belong to an international women's group in Poitiers and we have discussed this and have come to the above conclusions.

CoteDAzur Mon 28-Jan-13 14:20:35

Bonsoir - What you say re 3-year-olds being dropped off at parties is not just a Parisian thing. I remember approaching the mum of 3-year-old twins whom DD had befriended at maternelle about possibly getting together for a playdate and being shocked when she said "No problem, I'll tell the teacher you can pick them up for lunch or whatever". She had never met me before but was perfectly fine with this stranger taking her kids from school. I'm not even going into her total lack of interest in how her twins would feel about it.

ppeatfruit Mon 28-Jan-13 14:24:40

As a personal footnote I think that being "MADE" to eat what is put in front of you can lead to anorexia and other food phobias, not a good idea.

CoteDAzur Mon 28-Jan-13 14:25:32

I can't agree that "repression of children" leads to dangerous driving as adults. You can't even establish correlation, let alone causation.

I have driven in places where driving is a truly scary experience but children are brought up in with a totally laissez faire attitude.

It is more likely that the repression of children in France, at home and at school, leads to repressed French adults who always toe the line and don't have the self-confidence to raise their hand to protest against an injustice.

ppeatfruit Mon 28-Jan-13 14:35:00

No not scary Cote unless you're on the peripherique. It's almost as if they feel that once they are behind the wheel of a car they can control something; they are disciplined drivers but just too fast and always on your tail grin.

The adults IME seem to find it difficult to think 'outside the box' they follow rules unquestioningly as you say.

PiannaFingers Mon 28-Jan-13 14:37:27

Totally agree with Accidental - fear plays a big part. Sadly.

Bonsoir Mon 28-Jan-13 14:43:40

"It is more likely that the repression of children in France, at home and at school, leads to repressed French adults who always toe the line and don't have the self-confidence to raise their hand to protest against an injustice."

I agree with this - on an individual level, I find French people's ability to analyse what is going on around them and form a coherent, observation and data driven opinion about it, pretty limited. Hence they do not take action in their own lives. Protest against injustice largely takes the form of mass demonstration

CoteDAzur Mon 28-Jan-13 16:49:01

Don't get me started on the demonstrations.

It is hard not to notice that they tend to fall on Fridays, along with grèves. I suspect that French people's love of these demonstrations/mass protests is little more than love of long weekends.

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